IF YOU’RE GONNA STEAL, STEAL FROM THE BEST! Or, Why I sound like Roddy Piper…

One thing I learned a long time ago is you can’t please everybody. I also learned if you’re going to be in the wrestling business, you better have thick skin and understand you have more “acquaintances” than real friends. I can count my friends on one hand.

I stopped wrestling full time for all intents and purposes in 1996. I started training people in the newly founded developmental system for WWE in Stamford CT in August, 1996. I still wrestled periodically here and there and went on the road to wrestle some of the new guys coming out of the system. But I considered myself semi active as opposed to full time or retired. I wrestled on and off through the years even while training prospects. I’ve wrestled one hour matches against developmental talent to demonstrate that even at my age, it can be done if you know what you’re doing.

This is a young man’s sport, no doubt. One of the hardest things to do in the ring is relax and be intense at the same time.

One of the first one hour matches I had against a student was in a hot, muggy warehouse in Tampa. I gave everyone an assignment; They were going to have to be able to wrestle one hour straight through, keep the action inside the ring, tell a story that made sense and learn how to relax, breathe and think on their feet. One student got hit in the eye and broke his orbital bone during a match prior to the hour long matches beginning. So he was out for about five weeks.

We were having two and three hour matches daily and it came this guy’s turn. He didn’t feel comfortable working with just anybody so I opened my big mouth and told him I’d wrestle him for one hour!

Once I said it, I knew I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) take it back. Anybody who’s been in this business longer than five years has back and neck issues. Some are worse than others. At this time I hadn’t wrestled a short match in years, much less one hour! But I made my mind up I was going to do it.

I have some significant back and neck issues. I shouldn’t have done it. But I had to. I had a plan. I was going to call it and I knew the story I was going to tell. I knew how to breathe and relax. He had to listen and relax. Not as easy as it sounds…

Anyway, 10 minutes into a 60 minute match, I call a backdrop. The guy didn’t want to do it. I demanded him to “backdrop me NOW, dammit!” and he did. I landed wrong on my ankle and just knew I broke it. I broke my ankle before and that’s what this felt like.

But I was damned if I was stopping the match, so we went the rest of the time leading up to the end where I had him catch me in a sleeper with 20 seconds left to go. As time ran out, he let me go and puked on the side of the ring. I was hurting but I wasn’t about to let anybody else know how bad. I was just happy I made the kid puke! It’s a great story for those who were there to witness it. I believe this kid will be a big star one day. He’s already on his way and he can tell the story if he wants. I’m leaving the name out to protect the innocent at this time.

The next day I made it to the school but as I went to get out of my car, I couldn’t stand. I went to the hospital and they put me in a walking cast. It wasn’t broke this time. It was just a real bad sprain. I made it through and it gave me a good story and bond with a talented kid who loves this business and has passion.

I remember when I was just starting out. There wasn’t a developmental system. There was the territory system. Young guys were initiated in battle royals, getting chopped or piled on or just ribbed because they were new and the veterans wanted to see if you could take it.

I had my first match October 20, 1979 in Bryan, TX. I wrestled some shots around Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi for the next couple months before Paul Boesch got me booked in Portland, Oregon.

The very next week, Gary Hart (who was booking the Dallas territory) told me he had me booked in Los Angeles for Mike LaBelle. When I told him I was booked in Portland he said, “yeah, you go to LA first and then you go to Portland.” I thought it was arranged with Paul and everybody knew what was going on. It wasn’t and they didn’t.

Anyway, I was going to the gym and working out with Mark Lewin at the time and he helped me book my flight to California. My start date was the beginning of January in Fresno.

So I packed two bags and got on a PSA flight to Fresno to begin my new adventure. I knew nobody out there really. I’d met Al Madril and knew him some when he was wrestling in Houston but I didn’t know if he would remember me or not. And I had no idea how I was going to get around! My dad was going to make a road trip and bring my car to me once I got settled in.

On Andre’s shoulders 1980

I arrived at the Fresno airport and took a cab to the building. I was early but one of the first guys I saw was Al Madril. He vaguely remembered me from Houston and we exchanged pleasantries and general conversation. I’d seen Andre the Giant at the airport as well and had briefly met him too but didn’t know him well enough to feel like he would want to share a cab to the building.

I was in a battle royal in Houston a couple weeks before and climbed on Andre’s shoulders. The photographer got a shot of that and it seemed to become one of Paul’s favorite pictures to use if I was going to be working in Houston.

Anyway, as I’m talking with Al in walks Roddy Piper. He puts his bag down, says hello and immediately walks back in the hall and confronts an office guy (wasn’t Jeff Walton but can’t remember his name) and started yelling “You left me stranded last night and I want my money! I’m not getting dressed until you get my money and I want it now!”

Well, this is great. My first night in the territory and I hear this loud confrontation between Roddy Piper and some office guy. They eventually worked it out and Piper got dressed and wrestled Andre that night.

I met Chavo Gurerrero, who was booking at the time, and his dad Gory who I watched as a kid. I caught a ride back to LA with Frank Hill (Later became Jules Strongbow and teamed with Jay in the WWWF) and the Twin Devils. The Devils dropped Frank and I off at the Milner Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The Milner Hotel was located at 8th and Flower St. It was about 50 years old then! But that’s where Chief stayed and it was cheap and convenient at the time. Los Angeles, The Olympic Auditorium and my Los Angeles experience is too extensive for just one blog. I’m mentioning it now as a point of reference.

This was the first time I met Roddy Piper face to face. He was an intense guy to say the least.

I later came in contact with Roddy around 1981-82 in Atlanta. He was doing color commentary with Gordon Solie as well as wrestling back and forth between the Atlanta and Charlotte offices. Ole Anderson was booking both places and Roddy was a top star. Jim Barnette made a trip to Texas earlier and I was offered a job in Atlanta.

My timing is impeccable. I was “dating” a girl in San Antonio and decided to get married two days before heading to Atlanta. The guys told me everybody stayed at a place in Hapeville, GA. called The Falcon’s Rest. Well, I completely screwed up, got married, went to Atlanta and lived in a separate place because I didn’t want my new wife exposed to what was going on at “The Rest.” I stayed a week there many nights though. I’m no longer married to her by the way…

Me with the Dean of Announcers

Atlanta was just getting rolling on the Superstation, TBS. Tommy Rich, Bob and Brad Armstrong, Super Destroyer, The Masked Superstar, Ole Anderson, Stan Hansen, Don Muraco, my trainer and mentor The Iron Sheik, Kevin Sullivan, Buzz Sawyer, The Freebirds and countless other major names were showing up almost daily to be a part of TBS and World Championship Wrestling.

Roddy was commentating with Gordon Solie along with wrestling. For some reason, about a month into my stay, Ole told me Mr. Barnette would like to have me do some commentating along side Gordon as well. It was nerve racking to say the least, but a great experience none the less.

Gordon Solie and Roddy Piper

I was lucky enough to ride and make frequent trips with Brad Armstrong, Tommy Rich, Nick Patrick and eventually Tommy’s cousin Johnny when he arrived from Alabama. When Piper was working the Atlanta side he would occasionally ride with us or at least stay in the same hotel and party with the crew. Tommy had a van we usually took so we could take at least half the guys.

It was that time in Atlanta where I got to know Roddy Piper for what Roddy Piper is. He was always a good guy to the young guys and rookies coming up. I’d known some bitter veterans and so called “Superstars” who were above talking to peons in the first four matches. But Roddy treated everyone with respect. That is if you treated him with respect. It was was give, earn, and get respect back in those days.

Roddy was gracious, caring and shared whatever he had. Never made a young rookie feel like he was worthless or beneath him. He was a class act and would fight anybody who tried to mess with his friends.

Hot Rod

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Roddy had his hard side if someone tried to steamroll over him. He would stand up for himself as well as someone being taken advantage of. He was a wild man and I admired his ability to ingest and consume more than almost anybody in the room and appear un-affected. I tried (many tried) but failed miserably. I kept up as much as I could but Piper could put everybody under the table…

There’s a story in Gary Hart’s book about Ric Flair having a party, inviting Roddy and Mark Lewin to his house to see who could out do who. Both had mythical reputations as being THE party animal elite and it was supposed to be a challenge of sorts to see who the “real deal” was. Gary leaves it as “I didn’t go because I was the boss and couldn’t be around that, so I don’t know what happened.”

Mark Lewin

I’ve indulged with both Mark Lewin and Roddy Piper. I thought I was going to get my ‘Keith Richards merit badge’ and worked hard to earn it! The ’80s was a fun time and a lot of guys didn’t make it out alive. I’m sure there are times Lewin and Piper wonder how they did it…

The thing I really admired about Roddy (besides his ability to consume mass quantities of whatever was put in front of him) was his demeanor and attitude toward everyone backstage. He didn’t have to be nice or offer advice to anyone. He shared whatever he had, never let you pick up the tab for drinks or dinner and was a genuine good guy. That’s my opinion and I’m sure you can find people who think otherwise. But remember, if you give respect, then earn respect, you will get respect back. In other words, don’t just talk the talk. Walk it too!

I’ve caught a lot of grief through the years for cutting promos and sounding like Roddy Piper. Yes, I copied Piper. Yes, I blatantly copied his style and mannerisms. It really came a little more natural once I did it the first time because I felt anger and passion when I was able to come off like such a prick. I had a lot of anger in my my life during my active wrestling days. But I also had the utmost respect for the business and the ones who came before me. Onstage, cutting a promo or in the ring was the only time I felt comfortable. I always felt out of place in a crowd, didn’t like people and just wanted to wrestle and be left alone.

Roddy Piper encapsulated everything I felt in his promos. His style, cadence, mannerisms, confidence, everything. Then backstage was such a contrast. I was able to let my emotions out and come back and have fun and relax in the dressing room. I have always worn my hair long and it became like my shield or my flag against society. I could hide with it and wearing shaded glasses, never smiling pretty much confirmed I was a flaming asshole!

I felt like a heel inside. I looked like a stoned freaked out hippie outside. I sounded like Roddy Piper and I knew it. I’ve heard people say I “had the personality of a dishrag so I had to steal Piper’s gimmick.” OK. What’s new? The ones who know, know who and what I am. That’s all who really matter. What’s that other saying? “Any press is good press. As long as they’re talking about you.”

My dad had a heart attack and wasn’t supposed to make it. He died twice on the table and the doctors brought him back. During this time I was working in Memphis and Dallas for the USWA Jerry Jarrett promotion. ESPN was airing the Dallas shows on weekdays at four. I was wrestling and doing color commentary at the time and of course, I sounded like Piper. Someone told me that a bunch of the WWF (hadn’t got the ‘F’ out yet) guys were watching the show one afternoon and Rick Rude got hot saying I was “just ripping off Piper!” Yeah and again, so?

I came home when my dad had his heart attack and one day the phone rang. I was the only one home and I answered. It was Roddy Piper checking on my dad. He and my brother Bruce (Brother Love) had become close and Roddy just wanted to see how everybody was doing. I gave him an update and before we hung up I said “Roddy, I know a lot of people have been saying I’m ripping you off and stealing your gimmick, but if I ever wanted to steal from anybody I wanted to steal from the best. I’ll stop and change everything man, I’m sorry.” To which Roddy replied “No, no, no. I heard it and think you’re doing a great job. Don’t listen to what a few assholes say. I consider it an honor and I have no problem with what you’re doing. Keep up the good work. I love you and your brother and I hope to see you soon.”

Now, surely Hot Rod is just saying that to make me feel good, ya know dad being in the hospital and all. Think what you want. I believe Roddy was being genuine. I was paying homage to a guy I admired and respected. I was never going to WWE anyway. I was content on working the territories that were left and carve out a living there.

Fate being what it is, I did wind up going to WWE. I surpassed anything I ever thought I would accomplish while I was there. I did the WM 10 free for all in Madison Square Garden and the WM 12 free for all where we won the World tag team Championship. We won them on the west coast in Los Angeles and lost them on the east in MSG.

Roddy and me backstage MSG, WM 10

Wait. I actually wrestled in Madison Square Garden! That wasn’t supposed to happen! I lost the WWF World Tag Team Championship in Madison Square Garden. OK, it’s not the same as ‘winning’ the titles there but we walked in the champions!

My point is I was horrible at playing the political games of life. I’ve learned a lot since then. Although I do have this sense of trying to help by demonstrating something absurd to get my point across that doesn’t always work. And I’ve taken risks and lost. Failure isn’t final. I will find success again. And for those that say what success, I say to those who know, you know. Those that don’t, never will and I don’t care!

Sure, I copied Roddy Piper.

Ever heard of Lord Lansdowne? Danny McShane? Ray Stevens? Buddy Rogers? Look ’em up. Then see who copied them. And who continues to look at who came before them and how this business evolved.

What determines success is the level of confidence, skill and just plain balls to go out and do it! Refuse to lose or take no for an answer. Roddy Piper and guys like him paved the way. Somebody mentored them and gave them a chance, then they kicked the door wide open and owned their opportunity. I made a lot of mistakes. That’s called experience.

Anytime I hear somebody say “He can’t teach you anything. He never drew a dime! I can teach you how to be a star!” I just sit back and say, “Go ahead. In fact show me your formula in how you are going to make this guy or girl a star.” Are you going to tell them how to maneuver in the ever changing political landscape? Check. Got that one. Are you going to show them how to connect with a crowd? Check. That’s the intangible “it factor” I believe. There’s not just one way to teach or do this business. There’s not a special formula or secret handshake that will make you a star. Hard work, preparation, understanding and adapting are good ways to start though.

Piper after a match with Kim Duk (Houston, TX 1975)

I’m proud to say I’ve known Roddy Piper since I was was a rookie in this business. I watched Roddy when he was a rookie in 1975 in Houston. I took this picture the night he wrestled Kim Duk and got his face kicked in. He was just a kid then.

One Friday night, the sound system went out in the building. The microphone worked but the system that played the national anthem wasn’t working. So Paul Boesch asked a young Roddy Piper to play the anthem on his bag pipes. This was in the Fonde Recreation center in Houston. Some confuse that story being in the coliseum. I was there and remember it vividly. He got an incredible ovation and was an instant babyface! Who knew Roddy Piper would go on to be one of the biggest icons ever in professional wrestling? Roddy did. He refused to take no for an answer and he refused to lose. You gotta admire that.

Me and Roddy WM 28, Miami, FL 2012

And I do. Every time I see Roddy he’s the same gracious, funny, positive person I’ve known for years. If I was going to steal or ‘borrow’ from anybody today, it would still be from the Hot Rod!

For those that don’t like it, say what you will. At least you’re talking about it.

Thanks for reading.


Not that Michael Hayes needs anyone to come to his defense for anything, he’s a big boy and can take care of himself. But last week I got some texts and calls about his latest video about his former partner Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy. I consider Michael a friend. I attended my first writer’s meeting with Michael in Vince McMahon’s office and somehow wound up sitting in on creative and writer’s meetings. I traveled with Michael on the road while I was on creative and we had a lot of fun. I experienced things with Michael that not too many people would believe. But I swear your honor, it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

I had my third professional wrestling match against Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, AKA The Freebirds in Shreveport, LA in 1979. I can’t remember who my partner was, but I took their finish; Michael back dropped me into Terry’s waiting arms. Bamm Bamm gave me a piledriver and pinned me.

My second ever match was that same day against Lord Jonathan Boyd on the first set of tapings. I lost that one too. But Jon is another story for another time.

(Lord Michael Hayes, Percy Pringle, Terry Gordy)

Before the TV tapings that day, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy did some pre taped promos in the studio that fed the monitor in the dressing room. Michael could talk his ass off! I just knew these guys had been around a lot longer than I had and they were certainly older! Come to find out, Michael was 20 (so was I) and Terry was a couple years younger. Wise beyond their years for sure. They had been wrestling a couple years around the southern end of Mississippi and Alabama but now they were starting for Bill Watts.

They both were cool and easy. I was nervous and green, but they took care of me in the ring. They called themselves The Freebirds and though they weren’t the first to come to the ring with music, they certainly were the first of this generation to want to come out to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. For 1979, it was different.
I’ve known Michael over 30 years. And like I said earlier, I consider him a friend. He recently cut a song and video to honor Terry Gordy called “Freebird Road.” I got 4 texts the day it came out telling me I HAD to watch it. I did. I cried.

Jimmy Garvin, Buddy Roberts, Michael, Ray Gordy, Kevin Von Erich

Now wait. Let me explain, because I know what a lot of people are saying. The critics talk about the similarities between Michael’s song and Skynyrd’s “Brickyard Road” and how Michael ranged from cheesy to ridiculous to pandering. I cried because I knew how close Michael and Terry were and I can relate when someone you know and love in this business dies suddenly and way too young.

Pro wrestling is my life. It is who I am. I love rock and roll. My older brothers Ken and Chris are musicians and I have always been amazed and respect anyone who can play an instrument or sing. I can’t do either. My two favorite rock and roll front men of all time are David Lee Roth and Steven Tyler. I never was a Van Halen fan. I was a David Lee Roth fan. I love Tyler and Areosmith.

(Jimmy Garvin, Sir Oliver Humperdink, MIchael Hayes and Badstreet)

For me, Dave brought that rock and roll attitude on and off stage. I liked the fact he screamed and you couldn’t always understand the words. He wasn’t looking for perfect; he was looking for ‘right.’ If there was a story to be told, he didn’t let the facts get in the way, hell it’s rock and roll! Make it bigger, better, badder! In fact, make it up as you go along. Damn the facts! I’m sure DLR did his share of partying and playing but how much is myth, fact, or a little and a lot mixed in together? I’ve seen Dave in concert a few times and heard the same stories, catch phrases and intros including “impromptu” jabs at the crowd to get a reaction. Dave couldn’t really sing but he could perform and make you pay attention to him. With Van Halen, he helped sell out arenas. On his own, he played to half full (the optimist in me refuses to say half empty) buildings and smaller venues. He had the sizzle, VH had the steak.
An interview with DLR was full of quotable lines, my favorite being “You don’t get a poem from ice tea” and he knew people would talk about what he wore, said and how he acted on and off camera. He wouldn’t dress like a civilian if there was a chance to be noticed. He always had an answer or something interesting to say on interviews. Even if they might have stretched the truth just a bit.

Steven Tyler is the same kind of guy who likes to wrap himself in mystery and doesn’t like to be seen as normal (whatever that is). Both he and Dave had some cool moves and a good rap onstage, big difference was Steven Tyler can actually sing.

Michael in concert at the Dallas Sportatorium

I think Michael always wanted to be a rock star. He was a star, make no mistake about it. Ask anybody who witnessed the Freebird – Von Erich feud in the ’80s if Michael didn’t know how to connect emotionally with a crowd and understand psychology better than most during that era. The famous “Freebird hair cream” almost ended the career of The Junkyard Dog in Louisiana and I believe there was one particular incident in New Orleans that a fan actually pulled on gun on Michael! The New Orleans police were nobody to play with and I’m pretty sure that “fan” was ‘interregated’ to the fullest extent.

Michael wrote a song called “Badstreet” and put out an album. Michael, Terry Gordy and Buddy Jack Roberts made a music video as The Freebirds and made it clear they lived on the last house on the block! And everybody knows it “just got badder the further you walked down that street.” Classic stuff I’m sure you can find on YouTube. Some might call it cheesy. I’ll stick with classic.

Now, I like David Lee Roth’s singing. I’ve bought his CDs (except for the folk singing) and actually appreciate his rhymes, lyrics and stories. They’re not sophisticated. They’re entertaining. I’m not listening for the music as much as the story, sights and sounds. I didn’t get KISS or Alice Cooper until I started seeing what they were going for. It ain’t about the music kid! We got us a show goin’ on here!

And I can appreciate guys like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Diamond Dave who are in their 60s or late 50’s still rockin’ and rollin’ and putting on a two hour performance with energy and passion that can’t be manufactured. I’ve seen Aerosmith four times live and in living color and was never disappointed. Those guys might be a lot older and not always getting along, but onstage with Steven Tyler out front, there was no denying they were having a party with thousands of close friends in attendance! Passion, feeling, emotional attachment.

Terry, Jimmy, Michael
Buddy, Terry, Michael

To me, Michael Hayes is the David Lee Roth of wrestling. Michael and Terry Gordy WERE the Freebirds. There were other members; Buddy ‘Jack’ Roberts, Jimmy ‘Jamm’ Garvin, for a brief period a masked Brad Armstrong as ‘Badstreet’ and there was even King Parsons as a ‘Black Bird.’ But when all said and done, it was Michael ‘PS’ Hayes and Terry ‘Bamm Bamm’ Gordy who were the Freebirds.

Without David Lee Roth Roth, Van Halen became Van Hagar. Sammy might have been a better singer, guitar player but nobody could match Dave in wits and bringing the party to life. Hell, DLR was the party! Van Halen might have played better music but they didn’t have the same attitude without Dave. I’ll take a great show over great music any day. But that’s just me.

Areosmith tried to keep rolling without Steven Tyler. Didn’t work out so well. There is only one Areosmith and only one guy who can be in front. Steven Tyler.

Without Michael, Terry found success. He was bound to. He had the size, look and talent. Terry teamed with Steve ‘Dr. Death’ Williams in Japan for years and they were unstoppable. But the problem sometimes with being unstoppable is you don’t have anyone there to say STOP!

(“Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy)

Terry and Doc were two of the greatest, big hearted men in the business. If you were their friend they would do anything in the world for you. Both liked to party. We all liked to party. With Michael, for all the crazy and insane things I’ve seen him do and done with him, he was a voice of reason and protection with Terry. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves and need to have someone who knows us better than we do to step in and say “Stop what you’re doing. I love you and you’re going to die if you keep doing what you’re doing. I care about you and I won’t let you die. Fight me if you want because you’re going to have to!”

Michael tried to do that with Terry. I remember when Terry came to WWE after he had experienced an overdose in Japan and wound up in a coma years before. He wasn’t the same Terry we all new but he was still a good person. Michael begged everyone to please not give Terry anything if he asked. He knew Terry wasn’t what he once was but he wanted to help and take care of him as best as he could. And sometimes it doesn’t matter what anybody does because we can be our own worse enemies.

Michael and Terry had each other’s back. It was their bond and they were brothers from different mothers. Michael and Terry made magic and created an aura and mystic to what the Freebirds were. Believe me, they lived their gimmick. There was no pretending or “acting” as a character. I have too many stories of walking into a bar or restaurant and all heads turning to see this long haired, loud mouthed, uncouth Southern rebel slide up to the bar and order rounds of Jack Daniels “for my friends!” On one occasion we just sat down, ordered drinks from the waitress and as soon as she left, Micheal head butted a hanging light over our table! It was funny and stupid, and the manager immediately came over and not-so-politely told us to “get out, NOW!” Michael tried to apologize but the guy would have none of it and we left and found a better place with a little less restrictions (and a lot more fun!)

There’s been many incarnations of the Freebirds but Michael and Terry were the originals. Michael has made some mistakes, said and done inappropriate things at times, but those without sin go get stoned and take the first hit….or something like that. I think you get what I’m trying to say. Nobody’s perfect. We all don’t get it right the first time! So show me a man who never got any heat in this business and I’ll show you a man who’s never been in this business!

I have a ton of Michael Hayes stories. Maybe not a ton, but a lot. I’ve been white water rafting with Michael, Terry, Brad Armstrong, Nick Patrick and Tommy Rich. That was a great adventure from start to finish. I rode with Michael when I was an producer. We’d go to dinner when he came to Stamford and then go back to his hotel room to write ideas down. Well, Michael had the ideas. I pretty much listened.

I’ve been to a few social events with Michael and there always seemed to be a story, lesson or adventure involved. It was never boring.

(Michael, Bruce, John Valdostri, Me, Sgt. Slaughter holding John’s bride Beth on their wedding day)

I’ve been to a couple weddings with Michael. One wedding in particular, Michael commandeered the microphone from the band’s singer and took over the wedding party! He was singing and dancing onstage and on the dance floor as the MC! Michael’s wife Lori was so pissed, she made him go to the room. The bride and groom loved it! The band was pissed but screw that, this happy couple just had Michael PS Hayes sing and perform an unforgettable moment at their most special moment in their lives! How many people can say that?
Yeah, how many people would ‘want’ to say that? I know….That’s why I say this ain’t for everybody!

One wedding Michael really affected was mine.

It was December 19, 2000. We were in Charlotte NC finishing taping Smack Down. The weather was bad. Cold, rainy and now they’re expecting snow in the mountains overnight.

I’m supposed to get married the next day in Pigeon Forge Tennessee in a romantic cabin in the Smoky Mountains. My soon to be wife lived in Knoxville at the time and didn’t want to get married in Vegas, so Pigeon Forge it was.

Michael, my brother Bruce and I had a flight out the next morning but the weather reports were getting worse by the minute. I said I would never get married after my first go round and it looked like hell had really froze over the day before number two!

As we left the building, Michael was driving and said “Look, Bruce wants me to bring you straight to a strip club for your bachelor party. I don’t feel good but I’m going to go for a little bit and you have to go or you’re a pussy.” What? OK. I had no problem going to a strip club in Charlotte in horrible weather. Sounds like lots of fun! Michael was feeling the flu or a cold coming on.

Anyway, at the club was Bruce, Sean Morley, Andrew Martin and some of the production crew. Uh, and some naked girls. Now I’m not a big liquor drinker but of course I had to do the shots they brought over. And get the obligatory bachelor lap dances. Michael stayed about 45 minutes and said he felt horrible and went back to the hotel.

I don’t remember what time we left, all I know is we got back to the hotel and went straight to the crew bus.

I don’t want to incriminate any innocents here so I will just say that I stayed on the bus until 5 AM. I then staggered into the hotel, got to my 12th floor room, jumped in the shower, packed my bags and went downstairs to meet Bruce and Micheal to hit the airport for a 7 AM flight to Knoxville.

Michael drove the car back to the rental return and I rode with Bruce. When we all got on the shuttle to the terminal, Michael looked at me, shook his head and started singing an Eric Clapton song. Yes, I’d been up all day and night. I looked and felt like HELL!

I couldn’t wait to get settled in my seat on the plane for a short trip to K-town, sleep, get up, get married and relax. Yeah, right….

Our flight was cancelled. ALL flights were cancelled! Uh oh… Before I knew it Michael was at the rental car counter, got a car and said “Let’s go!” Michael got behind the wheel and started driving.

I knew he wasn’t feeling good the night before and he wasn’t feeling much better that morning, although I’d bet he felt a lot better than I did! Bruce got in the back and I rode shot gun. I was still a little buzzed and one of my favorite, annoying things to do is point at somebody about an inch away from their face and say “I’m not touching you!” Childish, I know. But I messed with Michael for about 30 minutes until I crashed and burned.

Michael drove through the icy mountains of North Carolina to Knoxville Tennessee while Bruce and I slept. When we pulled into the Knoxville airport, Bruce and Micheal checked into their hotel, I rented another car and I drove to Pigeon Forge to try and get a couple hours of sleep.

That night we had an intimate gathering at a very nice cabin. It was cold but not as bad as the night before. A friend of mine made a Badstreet USA CD that I just happen to have with me. I played that after the wedding in honor of Michael risking his life to get me there. We drank cheap champagne and rock and rolled. Cheesy? I prefer classic. Who else can say they had Michael PS Hayes drive them through the ice and snow to get them to their wedding in Pigeon Forge Tennessee? Especially after I out partied his ass the night before!

Me. And that’s why I can understand Michael’s heart was in the right place when he made his tribute video to his best friend and brother, Terry Gordy. Michael Hayes is far from perfect. But show me someone who is. In this self promoting, self absorbed, selfish, pandering, ego driven business it’s easy to point fingers and criticize. I say walk a block in his shoes. Not a mile. A block will do. I don’t know too many people these days that could even turn the corner.

Thanks Michael. Not just for getting me to my wedding on time, but for your creativity, passion and imperfections. I don’t want perfect. I can’t always be right. But I appreciate loyalty and passion. There’s no denying you have both.



I don’t remember exactly when I started marking important dates down on my calendar, but I know there are things if I don’t write down I will surely forget. Birthdays, anniversaries, things like that. When I was wrestling, of course I put the town and pertinent information along with it.

July 20 is a special date for three reasons to me. I watched the first lunar landing in 1969 from our small apartment in Houston. I thought walking on the moon was just something we did. It wasn’t until later that I understood the importance and meaning behind man traveling through space and actually walking on a different planet.

July 20, 1973 Bruce Lee died. I was taking karate at the time and everybody knew Bruce Lee if not from the martial arts world, from The Green Hornet TV show where he played Kato. It baffles me that to this day that Bruce Lee is still one of the most famous martial artists in the world.

But on July 20, 1973 something much more important than anything else on that day up to then, happened. I witnessed history, and almost 40 years later a symbol of that history is still being used to represent a once strong and dominant organization.

On that fateful night of July 20, 1973 in the Sam Houston Coliseum, Jack Brisco defeated Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. And I was right there to witness the changing of the guard and a new championship belt presented to Harley during a pre-match in ring ceremony by then NWA president Sam Muchnick, only to leave dejected and empty handed at the end of the night.

There were reporters and photographers from all the magazines, newspapers and I don’t know where!I’d been trying to find a way in the business by taking pictures and writing stories for Japanese magazines through my friend Koichi Yoshizawa and I wrote some articles for Jim Melby and Norm Kietzer with Wrestling News, but I wasn’t about to even ask if I could be at ringside for this match! There were at least 8-10 photographers around ringside that night! More than I’d ever seen for a match in Houston! So I took my 12th row seat and watched the action with anticipation for the main event.

The match between Jack Brisco and Harley Race for the world title was originally supposed to be Jack Brisco VS. Dory Funk Jr. for the world title on March 2. On February 28, Dory was involved in an accident on his father’s Flying Mare ranch and suffered a separated shoulder, leaving him hospitalized and unable to wrestle Jack that Friday.

Much has been made of what happened with Dory’s accident almost 40 years ago. I had the opportunity to ask Dory as well as Harley’s side of the story. Dory said he rolled his truck into a ditch on the ranch and separated his shoulder. Harley said he wasn’t there but he didn’t care because he was going to take advantage of the situation regardless.

Jack Brisco had other thoughts. Jack and Dory had a chemistry in the ring that was magic. For that time and era they were the best, credible, on top of their game performers in the business. They traveled around the country to almost every NWA territory and had one hour time limit draws in major cities in front of capacity crowds. You can talk about how big the crowds are today, but I will attest to the fact that professional wrestling was doing healthy business in the 1970’s in Houston and various parts of the country. And Brisco VS. Funk was a guaranteed money drawing match.

They never had the same match twice. Whether they liked each other or not, there was no denying they respected each other and were professional enough to leave everything they had in the ring. But controversy seems to find its’ way into such high profile matches and egos. I can only imagine the political landscape and having to maneuver in that jungle as the NWA champion in those days.

Dory was one of the longest reigning champions in NWA history. Four years straight is a long time to defend the title sometime seven days a week, making your own travel arrangements, new town, new opponent, every town beginning to look just like the last one, going on last and having to follow god knows what every night and working with god knows who on most occasions! Sounded like a great gig to me!

Of course nothing lasts forever and Jack Brisco seemed like the obvious man next in line to be NWA champ. Jack would go from territory to territory to set up matches with their top guy. Maybe Jack would lose or be involved in some kind of controversy with the idea he would return to face his opposition as the new world champion. Students of the game who want to learn about the business would do themselves a huge favor by reading Jack Brisco, Harley Race and Terry Funk’s book. All talk about the accident on the ranch, what was involved with defending the NWA championship and give an overall view and education on how professional wrestling was handled back in the day. The more things change….

But I digress.

The March 2 match between Jack Brisco VS. Dory Funk Jr. turned into a Jack Brisco VS. Fritz Von Erich match in Houston. Jack won the match but was anything but happy. He knew there was little if anything he could do except bide his time. Jack would come back to Houston and wrestle the top guys from Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine and others but he couldn’t help but think Dory was avoiding him.

The newspapers covered wrestling so much more than they do today especially if the promoter was established in the community and bought ads on a regular basis which was exactly what Houston promoter Paul Boesch did. One day there was an article with the headline “Race is wrestling’s new NWA champ.” On May 24 in Kansas City, Harley Race was granted a world title match against Dory Funk Jr. and won. The move he beat him with? A suplex. Yes, a suplex. And the place went nuts. Partly because it was in Harley’s neck of the woods, but also because everyone just witnessed a world title change. That didn’t happen on a regular basis back then! Harley Race had ended the four year streak of Dory Funk Jr.

But what about Brisco? Why wasn’t he the first to get the title shot when Dory came back? Speculation abounds and I’m sure everyone involved had their reasons. But the landscape had now changed. Houston was promised a world title match and Paul Boesch was going to make sure he got it.

Paul brought Harley in for a couple title defenses but it was all geared to having a match with Brisco. Finally the deal was done. July 20, 1973 Harley Race was set to defend the NWA world championship against number one contender, Jack Brisco.

I think everyone in the coliseum felt the buzz that night. There were no TV cameras present so if you wanted to see this match you had to attend the show! There was a special commemorative 8×10 “autographed” picture of Jack and Harley. I cut out and saved all the newspaper clippings leading up to the match. The old NWA championship belt was going to be retired and president Sam Muchnick was making a special appearance to present the champion with a brand new $10,000 ten pounds of gold NWA championship belt.

There was no entrance music, pyro or special lighting. Before the main event, ring announcer Boyd Pierce introduced NWA president Sam Muchnick who came to the ring carrying a large case that obviously contained the new belt. From there the challenger Brisco walked from the dressing room door to a chorus of cheers and made his way to the ring.

A few moments passed and then from the darkness, the champion Harley Race briskly walked to the ring wearing the classic NWA belt about to be traded in for a newer model. Boyd handed the microphone to Mr. Muchnick who then made the proclamation that this new championship belt will usher in a new era no matter who walks out of the ring with it tonight. The sea of photographers captured the moment for posterity.

The fans and wrestlers wanted to see what the new design looked like and when the presentation took place prior to the match, Sam explained the history of the belt he was about to retire and take possesion of and mentioned some of the great champions of the past that wore it. Everyone watching knew history was being made.

Main events were 2-out-of-3 falls back then and Harley won the first fall with the same move he used to beat Dory; a suplex. The second fall saw Brisco use the figure four leg lock to even things up. (When was the last time anybody actually gave up or won using the figure four or delivering a suplex?) The entire building was shaking during the third fall as the crowd was with every near fall. Finally it was Brisco catching Race with another simple, but effective move; the Thesz press!

The crowd erupted and the photographers flooded the ring. Harley got up, went over and shook Jack’s hand and then left the ring so Jack Brisco could soak up his moment.

A world title change back then was a big thing. I saved my ticket stub, program, clippings, commemorative 8×10, a special ’16 page Official Commemorative Edition of Crowning of a Champion” and put it away. I witnessed a hell of a match by two of the greatest in any era. I wanted to be just like them. I never made it to that level but years later, I wrestled in the same ring, same building and dressed in the same dressing room where the world championship changed hands. You can get jaded over the years but I can honestly say I still have reverence and respect for Harley Race, Jack Brisco and all the guys from that time and era that trail blazed the way for guys like me and countless others who love this business and wanted nothing more than to be just a small piece of it.

I’ve met the people I idolized as a kid. Even today, when I see Harley I get a lump in my throat and go back to being 13. He’s a legend among legends and a mans man. No pretenses. He went on to be champion seven more times when the NWA meant something. He made everyone he worked with look like a champion.

I only met and talked with Jack a handful of times. I know his brother Gerry better. I wouldn’t want to fight either of them (Harley included). The night Jack won the title was special because it was so uncommon and unique to “switch the title” back then. Controversy has been around this business forever. Somehow everything finds a way to work it out.

I know people were skeptical when Harley first got the title but he convinced everyone that he was the right guy more times than not. Jack might have had to wait a couple months for his shot but he got it. He went all over the world and cemented his legacy in this business.I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see history made when Jack Brisco became world champion July 20, 1973.

I’m sure a lot of other stuff happened that day. But to me, that takes a back seat. Today, almost 40 years later the belt that was first handed to Harley Race before the match and ended up with Jack Brisco at the end is still be used as a template. I don’t know if that’s good, bad or indifferent. I do know that the NWA isn’t what it once was, but nothing is.

I’ve added some pictures and clippings from Jack VS. Harley in honor of this special day. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading.


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The thought of writing a autobiography at this time doesn’t interest me.

What I am offering here is a curriculum. A lesson plan. A suggestion on how someone who might be a trainer of a school could run his school and have a plan to follow or go by. Or maybe a young prospect could take some of the suggestions or basic rules, apply them and advance his career. This is not a book about me or my career.
This is also NOT a HOW TO book as it is more of a WHAT TO DO curriculum, schedule to follow and NONE of the moves or spots should be done without professional supervision, under SAFE conditions in a ring and yes, some bumps should be performed using HEAD GEAR to lesson the chance of a concussion! This was done last May as a guide to follow for a developmental system. I modified some but not everything in this curriculum for someone who isn’t in a developmental system, and not every move or hold is explained. That’s why there are coaches and trainers. If you don’t have someone to demonstrate or help you through these moves SAFELY, DO NOT ATTEMPT THEM! In other words:


I realize that eliminates a lot of people right off the bat. I didn’t put this book out as a “learning manual.” It’s a “teaching manual” if anything. You can certainly learn something from this book but I make no claims that you will become a better, more accomplished pro wrestler that will automatically get a developmental deal if you follow this curriculum step-by-step. I am available to do camps/seminars and will cover elements in this book as well as broader topics not discussed in the book.

The holds, moves, spots, ideas, lists, suggestions and stories are my opinion and from years of being around, listening and watching various people teach and train.

I will go on record as saying I think Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) has always had a solid training system. Danny Davis and Rip Rogers are two of the best at teaching and running a solid and sustainable school with live events. And guess what? They do it all WITHOUT A WRITTEN, PRE-CONCEIVED YEARLY CURRICULUM! Yes, they have a plan but they adjust accordingly, which is the true way to learn this business! The way this curriculum even came about is a book in itself and the circumstances behind it would be an interesting discussion that some would find incredible! Or not….

I have been in this business from the time I was a teenager. That spans over 35 years. I was the first trainer/coach for the WWE developmental system in 1996 and until recently (May 30, 2012) I was the head coach for the WWE developmental system in Tampa, FL.

Before I left, I wrote a one year, 7 days a week curriculum. A plan to follow ‘theoretically’ in the developmental system. I never claimed to know everything or be a creative genius. No one knows everything and I’ve run into a couple so called ‘creative geniuses.’ But I put a lot of work into devising a plan to get someone from day one to day 365.

This plan is my ideas and opinion on how to train. It is open for interpretation and change. I would prefer it to be a ‘living document’ in the sense that it can be changed, rearranged and modified for the class or student. Nothing is set in stone. What is solid is the goal is to be able to wrestle for one hour by the end of the twelve month course without getting lost or running out of things to do.

I included some elements I feel are important and missing in today’s business. But the main thing I stress is this is not the only way to train, teach or learn professional wrestling. There has yet to be a bible or holy grail that everyone in this business agrees on as being the only way to give or take a hip toss, grab and apply a headlock, armbar or any other hold for that matter!

I do have some advice and lists that I think are important every person in the business should know and understand, but that’s just my opinion. And make no mistake about it, Professional wrestling is opinion. Simple as that.

So, if you are interested in how I would go about training, this curriculum is close to how I would do it. But everyday is something different and not everyone will be progressing at the same rate, so while I would have this curriculum to go by, practicalities being what they are, I would adjust to what the needs of the student was and do my best to get them to be receptive and interested in what they are being taught.

This is not a conventional sport like football, basketball, baseball, golf or volleyball. If I’m not mistaken, they all have off seasons and don’t practice in full pads or full blast 365 days a year.

Not to mention traveling on a team bus, plane, hotels, etc… You cannot compare professional wrestling to any other sport in the world. This is and aways has been ‘sports-entertainment.’ And while I do agree with training hard and being physical, I do believe in light practices to rest the body as well. Again, just my opinion.

And for those who ask “What gives me to right to put out a training curriculum?” I say my record speaks for itself. I’ve trained a myriad of talented people and have been around this business long enough to know what I’m talking about…

But that’s MY opinion. I know there will be those who scoff and say what they will. But when they get done talking and pointing out all the wrongs, they can send me their one year curriculum and I can see what they came up with. So if you want the book, buy it. If you don’t, don’t.

Thanks for reading.

The World Champion Meets The King Of Chain Matches


When wrestling fans think about “screw jobs” or “double crosses” I would venture to say that Montreal, Shawn Michaels and Brett Hart immediately come to mind. Certainly in this day and age the Montreal screw job or double cross is the most famous for a number of reasons.

A film crew was following Brett around during what was to be Brett’s last days in WWE before going to work for WCW, and crucial elements were taped and shown in the movie “Beyond the Mat.” Of course this incident led to one of the most profitable times in WWE history and changed the dynamics of how Vince McMahon was now viewed not only by the wrestlers in his company, but the fans that bought the product. Most viewers knew Vince McMahon as an announcer and of course the owner of WWE but now he had done something so blatant and dishonorable to a loyal employee of his and made it clear that he was justified in his actions. He didn’t screw Brett; “Brett screwed Brett!”
History shows the Montreal screw job changed professional wrestling and changed the lives of the players involved forever. The question continues to be asked; Was it all a work or not? Only those who were a part of that historic event know for sure.

Reality can be stranger than fiction sometimes.

I was amazed at how many “world champions” there were at one time in pro wrestling. Before television, the carnivals would criss cross the country claiming someone as “The Greatest or Strongest in the World!” and who was going to dispute it? There was no way to really verify if the guy in the ring was the European champion, or the “most decorated wrestler in Croatia,” or if in fact he was a real live, bonafide Indian off the reservation!

Eventually, a conglomerate of promoters banded together to form the National Wrestling Alliance. They stepped in and agreed to recognize one world champion that would go from territory to territory and be a credible and respected champion to represent the ‘sport’ and bring credibility to the prestigious NWA. Historians can discuss all day long how the National Wrestling Alliance and National Wrestling Association became one and all the fragmented pieces, championships and promotions came and went. But along the way, there were more than one or two “screw jobs” or in the following case, “attempted screw jobs.”

Harley Race is one of the most respected men in this business. As an eight time NWA world champion, Harley delivered a main event, world championship match every time he stepped in the ring. The world champion’s job was to come in and work with the top guy in the territory and make that guy look like a world beater. Harley was a legit tough guy and one of the greatest NWA champions ever. He held the NWA title when it meant something; traveling to a new place every night, working with the very best the local promotion had to offer at the time. While Harley’s opponent wasn’t necessarily consider a top guy anywhere else, by the time the match was over the fans believed their local hero was a “contender.” Harley kept his credibility but he knew how to make his opponent look better and kept the world championship credible and in tact at the same time.

Considering many times Harley would be meeting his opponent for the first time the night of the match and have to go anywhere from 30-60 minutes in the ring and make the match interesting and creative, that was no small task! That’s also why Harley was given the responsibility of carrying the championship for so long. He was a legitimate tough guy who understood the business and knew how to work and take care of business if need be.

I had the pleasure of staying at Harley’s house many years ago, along with Les Thatcher while doing an evaluation camp. I’d met Harley during my days working with Paul Boesch in the office and ran into him through my years wrestling in various territories. He and his wife B.J. were living on the lake near Eldon, Missouri and I was transported back to that kid who watched Harley in his early years in El Paso and later as a young rookie breaking into the business, hearing all the stories.
I’ve learned “real” tough guys don’t talk about how tough they are. But there’s plenty of stories about how tough Harley was before, during and after his title reigns and I was ready to ask him about a couple good ones I heard over the years.

Out on the lake, Harley, Les and I were talking and I brought up a story that was somewhat folklore in the business and I wanted to know the real story from the man himself. We talked about a lot that day but this particular story involved a man named “The Lawman” Don Slatton.

Don Slatton was famous for bring Billy Sol Estes to justice and was in fact a deputy, sheriff or some kind of well known law enforcement officer around Abilene, Texas. The Lawman usually came to the ring wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and white jeans. He was billed as “The King of the Chain Matches” and it seemed like no matter what kind of match he was in, he always ended up a bloody mess.

The Lawman was the promoter in Abilene and during one of Harley’s tours as champion in the Amarillo territory, Don Slatton booked himself in the main event against the world champion in a Russian Chain Match!

The “King of the Chain Match” Lawman Don Slatton VS. The World Heavyweight Champion, Harley Race. Russian Chain Match Rules! No Disqualifications, No count outs, the ONLY way to win is to drag your opponent around the ring and touch all four corners consecutively! No stopping for blood! MUST BE A WINNER!

Well, as far as anybody in Abilene knew, The Lawman was “undefeated” in over 400 chain matches and the odds were definitely in his favor! The promos, newspaper ads leading up to the match did it’s job and the night of the match saw a turn away crowd.

I’ve heard this story from numerous people through the years but now I’m hearing it straight from the guy who was in the middle of it all. Harley said he got a call from Bob Giegel (NWA president at the time) asking if he was working with Don Slatton in a chain match that night. When Harley informed Bob that he was, Giegel told Harley not to do it because they got word that Slatton was looking to double cross Harley and take the title using “chain match rules.” Harley told Giegel not to worry about anything like that happening. Slatton would never try anything like that. Surely he wasn’t that stupid! So Bob told Harley to just watch himself and be aware that it was a possibility.

Harley got to the show that night and the dressing rooms were on opposite sides of the building, which meant the referee would be delivering messages back and forth. The match was set where a heel would come out for a distraction just as Slatton was about to get to the last corner and then Terry Funk would come from the opposite dressing room to make the save. In all the commotion, Harley would do something to Slatton, knock him out and touch all four corners, retaining the world championship.

Apparently all was going as planned, with Slatton dragging Harley around the ring touching three corners along the way and the crowd anticipating their local hero about to become the new champ when suddenly a heel came from one dressing room (Harley couldn’t remember who) and Terry Funk came out to stop the interference. At that point instead of letting the moment play out and have Harley stop him, The Lawman continued and touched the fourth corner! The crowd erupted thinking they just saw a title change!

The Lawman took the chain off his wrist and immediately made his way back to the dressing room with Terry Funk while Harley stood in the ring with the crowd still going crazy!

Harley knew he’d been had and was pissed! He made his way through the crowd, with the chain still on his wrist and went back to the babyface dressing room, kicked the door open and found Don Slatton hiding in the shower. Harley said he backhanded him twice and drug him to the ring, punched him out and drug him around the ring touching all four corners in front of a capacity crowd that wasn’t quite sure what they were witnessing. After Harley touched all four corners, he made sure the ring announcer made it clear to everyone in the building that “the winner, and STILL world heavyweight champion was Harley Race!”

Once Harley was declared the winner, he went back to his locker room but was so mad he decided to go back to the other side of the building again and kick the door in, looking for Don Slatton. But the room was empty. Harley kicked a few chairs, went back to his dressing room, showered and left.

Almost a year later, Harley said he was back in the Amarillo territory again and sure enough, The Lawman was still there. Harley noticed a belt on the bench of the dressing room that said “World Champion Chain Wrestler.” He picked it up as Don Slatton walked in. Harley said he looked at him and said “You won’t be needing this” as he took it and put it in the trunk of his car.

He said Slatton begged him not to take it as it cost him a lot of money to have made, but Harley didn’t care. He tried to screw the world heavyweight champion and it backfired on him. I don’t know how much longer The Lawman was involved in promoting Abilene after that. I heard he and the Funks had a falling out and Abilene pretty much dried up as a regular stop in the territory. Trying to pull a fast one on the world champion didn’t do him any favors, I’m sure.

This wasn’t the only time somebody tried to take matters into their own hands in the ring and that’s one reason for years a pre-requisite to holding the world championship was knowing how to handle yourself in the ring in case anybody tried to get cute and steal the title. The great thing about this day and age is the amount of books and coverage there is on the history of the business, promoters and various unscrupulous elements that were prevalent back then.

The wrestling business has come such a long way from the carny days and evolved into ‘sports entertainment.’ For those who are students of the game, there’s so much information out there to look up if for no other reason than to see how fortunate the guys and girls are today. There were not so many guaranteed contracts or payoffs back then. You got paid off the what the house drew that night, usually in cash in a small envelope. Some guys had a deal or agreement with a promoter when they came in, but if they didn’t draw they didn’t stay long.

The Lawman VS. Harley Race chain match in Abilene set the stage for a match many years later in Houston. It was an Indian strap match involving Wahoo McDaniel and Harley Race for the world championship. Pat O’Connor became the special referee by the end of the night. When I heard this story, my mind flashed back to The Lawman and the Russian Chain Match. That’s for another blog, another time.

Thanks for reading.

The first post is always the hardest…

I often find myself wondering what motivates people to get into professional wrestling/sports entertainment in this day and age. I think as we all get older, we like to think of things “back when” as being so much better than they really were. Nostalgia is nice, but were things really better or just different back then?

I grew up a wrestling fan in the 1960s and ’70s. No cell phones, remote controls, computers, you know the deal. “Back in MY day, blah, blah, blah.” I guess you can’t miss something if you never had it.

My first recollection of seeing pro wrestling was on a black and white TV. The show was taped in a small studio and it aired Saturday afternoons after Roller Derby. I was just a kid living in El Paso, Texas and I was drawn into the matches, interviews and angles by some of the greatest wrestlers in the world. Dory Funk Sr. and Doc Sarpolis owned the Amarillo territory at the time and were very influential names in the business. I had no idea where this TV show was being taped but there were interviews inserted throughout the show, plugging that the wrestlers I saw on TV would be appearing at the El Paso County Coliseum that Monday night!

There was no pyro, music or entrance ramp. Just a ring and two wrestlers with a commentator’s table close by. There was always that “doubt” placed in a young kids’ mind about wrestling being ‘fake’ and the fact that those guys are all friends and aren’t really hurting each other. You couldn’t convince me though. I was a believer. The guys I watched made me believe.

I don’t know why the thought of wrestling in a small TV studio and traveling to small, big and every size in-between towns appealed to me, but it did. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way but I thought I was one of a rare breed. It seemed like I was the only kid at my school that watched religiously every Saturday.

As a matter of fact, I watched Roller Derby with interest but not as much as I did wrestling. Both sports seemed to have colorful characters, but professional wrestlers had an aura and mystique about them. My dad tried to explain “you can’t hit someone ten times in the face and not leave a mark, get a bloody nose, black eye, or something!”

The Infernos were an interesting and unique team. JC Dykes would accompany his team to ringside dressed usually in a tuxedo and carrying a canteen. On occasion he would also bring a whistle and flashlight. He would blow the whistle to give his team “coded signals” until it got to where the fans started bringing whistles and would blow them to confuse and irritate Dykes and his team.

Then JC got the idea to use a flash light to give signals and the fans again would bring flashlights from home and the arena would look like hundreds of flash bulbs going off constantly during the Infernos matches. They were usually involved in 2-out-of-3 fall matches, so in-between falls they would take a drink of water from the canteen. Later in the next fall, the canteen would somehow find its way in the ring or used to stop their opponent.

JC Dykes was the first guy I ever saw throw fire. He threw a fireball at Terry Funk and burned his face! Wearing a mask was always interesting because it gave the other guy or guys in this case, to try and take it off during the match. The Infernos wore masks that laced up in the back and it was the drama watching their opponents attempt to unmask these guys ‘one lace at a time’ and almost getting it off, until…

The other Inferno would come in and break up any unmasking their opponents had planned for that night. The Infernos looked identical and it was hard to tell them apart, with one obvious distinction. One Inferno wore a built up wrestling boot. According to JC Dykes, this man was born with one leg shorter than the other but overcame the odds and thanks to this ‘orthopedic boot’ he was able to not only lead a normal life, but he became a world champion wrestler as well.

The only thing was, when it looked as though the Infernos might be in danger of being un-masked or beaten, the ‘club-foot’ Inferno would come in (as the referee was trying to restore order or just happen to have his back turned) tap his built up boot three times on the toe, and kick their opponent in the head, back or stomach. That usually did the trick as the Infernos would get the pin. After the match, ‘club foot’ would un-load his boot by kicking down on his heel another three times!

If he kicked his opponent in the head, you could expect blood nine times out of ten. Either way, the boot was a dangerous and mysterious arsenal in the Infernos playbook. It also gave their opponents something else to try and take off. Going after the loaded boot, laces hanging out, mask laces hanging out, whistles, canteens, flashlights, fire, anytime the Infernos stepped in the ring everybody knew there would never be a dull moment!

The only thing they had to work with was a ring, house lights turned down and the ring lights over the ring. And the Infernos never said a word on TV or at the live events. JC Dykes was their manager and mouth piece. They were billed as being from Europe, when most masked men of the day were from “Parts Unknown.”

The Infernos were one of the best tag teams I’ve ever seen. JC Dykes was the perfect person to put with them as their manager. After interfering on numerous occasions the promoter or commissioner would see fit to “force” JC to get in the ring and team with his men. In West Texas, that meant JC Dykes and his Infernos would eventually face off against the most popular family in the area at the time, the Funks; Dory Sr, Jr. and Terry.

The Funks could do no wrong in West Texas. But it seemed like everywhere else they went they were the heels. In 1969, Dory Funk Jr. won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Gene Kiniski in Tampa. The Funk family could do no wrong in West Texas! But venture outside of that area of the world and it seemed like they were the biggest heels to ever come to town! And they were!

It was a great set up. You had younger brother Terry come in a territory to stop the number one contender and if he couldn’t do it, here came Papa Funk to knock him down. Once the top man in that territory went through Sr. and Terry, he was guaranteed a shot at the champion Dory Funk Jr. I moved to Houston shortly after Dory won the title and got to see him, Sr. and Terry in a new light. I had only seen them as the good guys in El Paso. Now they were wrestling against heroes like Wahoo McDaniel, Jose Lothario and Johnny Valentine. Being world champion back then meant going in a new territory and being able to wrestle one hour straight through and make the challenger (usually the top guy in that territory at the time) look like he would have beat you “if only there was more time…”

I recently found a lot of old programs, cards, pictures and posters that brought back a lot of memories. I am just getting my feet wet and learning how to scan pictures, articles and make some of the programs and pictures I have available. I have Houston programs from 1969-80s. I have a lot of magazines and pictures. I have old Portland and Los Angeles programs as well. It’s going to take some time but I believe there is a market out there for those who are interested in the history of what the business is and how it evolved. I would like to hear any comments and feedback.

I’ve followed this business my whole life and have been very fortunate. I kept a lot of stuff and lost some along my travels.

I did a seminar in Amarillo a few years ago and Chris Romero had the Rocky Mountain Championship belt that his dad Ricky Romero held for years. I took pictures with the belt and can’t find them now. Old belts, pictures and artifacts have always interested me. A good friend of mine, Chris Gaugh, interviewed Orville Browns’ son years ago and took a picture of the original World Title that Brown held in 1938: